Books: The Art of Fire by Daniel Hume

From Living Woods Issue 49

Keen camper, former Brownie and firm believer in the power of matches,
DONNA CAMERON reviews The Art of Fire.

Daniel Hume
Arrow Books
Paperback £9.99
ISBN: 978-1784758424

Daniel Hume’s book is a joy to look at
with a stylish design. It’s a pick-up-and-browse
kind of book that pulls you in to read it.

In essence, it’s a personal journey for
the author from childhood to date,
following his fascination for making
fire, with a mash-up of extremely
clear ‘how-to’ drawings, practical intel,
engaging facts, legends and colourful
photos. It’s part travelogue and part
practical fire-making manual.

Daniel’s passion for fire-making takes
him on a global exploration to places,
peoples, myths and traditions. He learns
first-hand how tribesmen in remote
places build fires, which are key to their
survival and existence. The photos
of people and places are artsy and
enriching, and the anecdotes and tales
of Daniel’s travels are engaging, but not
too lengthy or investigative. There is no
deep analysis of the rituals, but rather
a respectful and unimposing glimpse. I
found myself wishing for a map of his
travels to understand the enormity of
the journeys he took.

The attention to detail is impressive,
as the drawings of each tool for firemaking
are clear and easy to follow.
(And there are great photos to clarify
whether you’ve made it correctly.)
However, the other elements of
the book elevate it from a purely
practical manual and develop it into
a fascinating and delightful read for
anyone interested in history, indigenous
traditions and the natural world.

Who knew, for example, that the
diesel engine was inspired by a device
made by the peoples living on Penang,
off the West Coast of Malaysia? Or that
in a Native American legend, weasels
were the only creatures who had fire
and only a clever dancing rabbit was
able to steal it from them by dancing
close to the flames and lighting his own
fire from his burning fur?

Formerly an instructor at Ray Mears’
School of Wilderness Bushcraft, Daniel
Hume has produced a fascinating
book, which would suit aspiring bushcrafters
as well as those interested
in indigenous traditions and history
around the world.

And who knows, I might even look
out for a suitable elderberry branch
in order to make my very own firestarting
hand drill!